The Journey of the Engineer. I want to hear YOUR story.


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I gotta say...

It's been a long time since I've been in hear and it's pretty bizarre how things evolve over the course of just a few short years. As a fan of the music production process and an ever so avid seeker of "perfect sonics" in a mix, its amazing how the vibe in this place has helped me develop my inner geek in the past.

Having gone from musician, to bedroom engineer, to dedicated student, to amateur freelance engineer, to professional engineer, to studio head engineer/manager, to finally end up working in a professional world-class studio fit enough for multi-platinum's pretty bizarre how you just sort of "end up" as something. But I don't care about my story. I'm curious to hear yours.

I'm curious to hear about what drives you. What fantastic session you had lately. What ground breaking technique you feel will have the world on the edge of their seats 10 years from now. I want to get back to why you do this in the first place and what you aim to accomplish as the engineer that you are. Then I'd love to stay in touch with you. I'm all about fresh starts and new beginnings. What do you say?

Okay, I'll bite because I've had a bit of a circuitous journey too.

First off, I'm old (60 this year) and have taken early retirement so, except for a few shifts doing live sound at the local theatre and sometimes earning a bit of beer money in my home "studio" (bedrooms 3 and 4 of our house) I'm now just a hobbyist.

My dad had a reel to reel tape recording which I latched onto and practised recording and editing from about age 10 onwards--I loved doing things like that!

In university, I actually studied TV and Film production in the department of Drama. I thought I wanted to be a TV director at the time and went to work at a series of local TV stations in Western Canada. As with all small and mid market stations, I did everything from camera to Master Control to tape sound. I discovered I really enjoyed sound. I think my "eureka" moment (or moments) was when we had various musicians come through promoting concerts and, when on sound, I'd get to mix (live) their "and will you play us a song to see us out" segments. I still have a quarter inch tape of Gordon Lightfoot doing Canadian Railroad Trilogy in Calgary that I think sounds okay after all these years (especially as my mic choice was 635As and SM61s). Hmmm, I wonder if I should admit to having that tape!

Anyway, in the mid 70s I decided to move to London (the UK one, not the Ontario one) for a year or two's adventure. I found that in London (at least at that stage) TV engineers were a lot more specialised--no jacks of all trades. If I wanted to do audio, I had to have a lot more experience and training so I worked hard to get that and managed to stay employed. I was lucky to get work with a smallish company (doing mainly news) and was there when they announced a major expansion. It was a case of "right place, right time" and (partly because I did have the jack of all trades experience from Canada) they offered me the job of Technical Manager, my first job being to design a new facility.

Years went on and, by the early 90s we moved and expanded again and I ended up on the board as "Vice President Operations and Engineering". This was good news but removed me too far from actually recording and mixing. However, along came Cool Edit 96 and I found that, at home, I could do the same things I was using a quarter of a million's worth of hardware to do.

I also rediscovered live sound when I was roped in by a friend to help with a musical at a local theatre. After that, between home recording and live stuff, I kept as busy outside work as I was in the office.

Come 1999, corporate politics came to play and the company I'd worked for since 1976 was bought out. I didn't like the new owners so I took as cash settlement (well, took it after suing them) and invested it with four other friends to build a small production company...little studio, video studio, a couple of edit suites. I had a management title but we were small enough that everybody did everything...great fun. However, three years in, a home shopping channel made us an offer we couldn't refuse and we sold out. For a a year or so I made a point of freelancing but, come 2004 a mix of arthritis and a pension fund that would pay me a living came together so I retired formally, moved to the sun of Australia (that's a joke--we have heavy rain and thunder as I type this) and now spend my time having fun in the studio, picking and choosing projects.

And that, as they say, is that.
I started a few years later than Bobbsy; when I was about 13. That was when I heard The Beatles on the radio. That seemed to fire a musical synapse in my brain, and I was hooked from then on. Like Bobbsy, my dad had a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and I messed around with that for hours. I made myself an electric 'guitar' by hammering some nails into either end of a plank of wood, stringing wire along the length, and using the tape recorder's mike as a bridge. Electronically it worked a treat . . . but it had no frets, only a couple of strings, and I couldn't keep the strings taut.

I had about two piano lessons a half-dozen years earlier, but they failed to capture my interest. I taught myself guitar when I was about 14 or 15, and I had in mind to develop a musical career and become famous (like The Beatles). This, I discovered in later years, was a mistake.

From about sixteen years onwards, I played in an assortment of bands: folk, blues, rock, cabaret, and occasionally doing solo stuff. This musical adventure lasted about 34 years . . . from about 1966 to around the turn of the century. Commercial success was elusive . . . alas, no hit singles, and not lucrative enough to give up a conventional job, but I enjoyed it all. During this period I was continually messing around with sound and technology. I spent endless hours with a Sony TC250 reel to reel, which had a fantastic 'simul-sync' option for doing sound-on-sound. I was also the one that seemed to get landed with the technical jobs: setting up and running the PA, for example. I was forever encouraging whichever band I was in to record material.

In the late eighties I switch from R2R to four-track cassette (an awesome Yamaha MT3X), and embarked on a project to record all the material I had written over the previous years. In the late nineties, I entered the digital world. My first interface was the ISIS soundcard, with its eight input breakout box, and ran Logic on a 400mhz PC with about 250mb of RAM and a 16gb hard disk, running on Windows 98. This, for me, was the pathway to heaven, and at the age of 50, embraced enthusiastically the real of digital recording.

At the time of this transition to digital, I was playing in a band that specialised in playing Celtic, Cajun and Zydeco, doing a lot of gigs at folk festivals. Here I found myself spending more and more time hanging around my friends who were doing sound, and eventually found myself running the desk at assorted gigs. Shortly after the turn of the century, another synapse fired in my brain. Quite suddenly my enthusiasm for performing vanished. In early years I could never have imagined this happening, but it did, and was like almost overnight. From then on I switched my focus to recording and doing live sound. I had accumulated enough gear for a respectable live rig, and enough to run a modest studio at home, and I have been doing both since I retired from a regular job (when I was 56).

The mistake I made was this: Part of my brain had, since my teen years, pushed me into a musical performing direction. That was what, for about 30 odd years, I had thought I wanted to do. The clues to what I really wanted to do were scattered along the way, plainly visible now, but ignored then. My interest in the production of music, rather than the performance, was always there, but not recognised for its importance. From time-to-time (like, when writing this) I wonder what I might have achieved had I recognised and heeded those clues earlier. At 61, I am fit . . . but there's only so many years of carting PA gear around left in me.

There are no famous names in this history; but there has been a huge amount of pleasure. I have even taken to do a spot of performing every now and again. I'm not quite sure when I'll be slowing down.
Still in the beginning stages, just now 21 :D. I've been playing music since I was 8, but around 13 after a year or so of learning the guitar is when recording caught my interests. Had myself a little tascam interface and cubase LE I messed with and would just record riffs, and that was pretty much the limit until 2 years ago.

I went through my first 3 semesters of college and absolutely hated it. Couldn't find any enjoyment out of it, seems kind of cliche but I only enjoy music and it's what I'm really good at and it's the only thing I've stuck with and never quit after so many year. I was long past the point of thinking I could become a rock star lol, but I knew I wanted to involved in some way in the music business. That's where the interest in recording kind of remerged, I found out that my local CC actually did a AE certification program through the college where are the classes were actually done at the main studio in Columbia. That really sparked my interest because I hate classroom settings and this program would be soooo cheap to find out for sure if it's something I want to pursue. Needless to say I loved it! I really learned a lot after the load of classes there and a few internships around town from live sound, to booking, to recording.

I'm currently in the process of starting up a multimedia studio with a long time friend and new business partner of mine, I've been planning this for close to a year now. And am actually going to be going back to school in Charleston, SC this fall to get a degree in "computing in the arts" essentially a form computer science, a very wide degree with field of studies from music, to design, to theatre and then a minor in business management since I'm only a few credits away from what I did a few years ago. I'll use that to become more rounded in other aspects of what were trying to accomplish, graphic design, movie applications, etc. And will allow me to live down there for next to nothing and will at least give me a back up plan.

We're setting up shop in downtown Charleston and are going through some of the planning phases right now as well as the acquisition of gear for me :D. Will be a "home studio" at it's finest. Live and mixing room, photography studio, and a graphics room. I'll be on a sleeper sofa in the mixing room :p. It's going to be a fun next couple of years. Gear > real bed
Haha, I'm with you.
4 years of studying on my own, and now I'm trying to apply for Belmont... Here's hoping we make it big as musicians or engineers. Cheers. =]

Cool! Good luck! I was actually just looking at Belmont the other day because I'm scoping out graduate programs. They've got a nice MBA with a specialization in music and entertainment business.

But I digress :D
I started 7 years ago with a simple interface, a powerbook, and a sm57, headphones, 1 mic cable and a stand.

Over time just added more home studio gear. Then did an internship a couple years ago at subcat (SubCat Music Studios - Welcome to Subcat Studios).

I now get to occasionally freelace out of their place. 95% of what I do is still out of my house though.

Drum tracking video I did recently (I'm behind the glass so I'm out of site):

The place is really nice:

All professionally tuned and decoupled rooms

Studio B control room:

Studio A control room (there is a little sit down area where the camera is taking a picture as well):




These windows fog white with a flip of a switch if you don't want street walkers looking in. :D

Cafe next door, have some boss ass local beer and crepes.:

Video walkthrough.
Viral Video Player
Guys, much thanks for sharing your stories. I really appreciate the moment to take a trip down memory lane. Any and all stories welcome! :)
btw, Guitargod, really great looking pictures man. Congradulations on that experience. Perhaps you'd care to elaborate from your time there? I'd love to hear more man. Anything that might inspire another great future engineer that may be reading :0
Ok, this seems fun so I'll participate.

I started this journey of perpetual insanity almost 13 years ago in a little town called Orem in the often overlooked state of Utah. I wasn't originally from there, however. I was an immigrant, born in the same place as recording greats Mutt Lange and Eddie Kramer, the beautiful and strange country of South Africa.

Anyway, before those 13 years got underway, I was an aspiring musician (as most of us are) and played in bands from early high school and eventually beyond. I was always the guy organizing the sound or doing small recordings for our bands and my first recorder was a Sony 4-track minidisc recorder. So you could say I was introduced to digital right from the start. Eventually I was doing recordings for other bands with a handful of mics and few cables in basements and backyard sheds.

As time went on I found myself in college studying music and in the meantime had hooked up with a guy named LJ Pesci who was in a local band we used to play with who had partnered up with ex-pro wrestler Maxx Payne and they were conspiring to build a studio near the college I was going to. I proposed to them that I would quit my job (WOO HOO!) to help them build the place for free if they let me hang around and learn. They agreed and I basically handed my life over to them and Maxx became my mentor and LJ my great friend.

For a starting point, the studio was pretty cool. It had 48 tracks of Alesis M20 ADAT machines (the big dogs!) with the BRC, a 48 input Alesis X2 console, racks and racks of outboard and a good selection of mics. From memory we had three quad NTI preamps, Nightpro EQ4 and EQ3D's, Summit TLA-100 and DCL 200, Drawmer and Orban gates/comps, old Ampex compressors and other cool stuff I can't remember. It also had a fully digital editing room with Cubase VST 5.0, MOTU Spark and a MOTU 2408. For 1999, it was pretty state of the art and after a few short months, I must have showed promise to them because they made me the principle engineer there. Maxx didn't want to engineer any more. He wanted to take on more a tech/maintenance role so I jumped at the opportunity.

But as we all know, nothing lasts forever. Eventually I got asked to join a band of my friends that got signed by Reprise Records and spent the next year touring the US as a hired gun, playing guitar. I ended up in LA, sitting in on sessions with their producer/engnieer, John Feldman and learned a lot. It is a time in my life I will never forget.

Eventually the time came when I had to return to South Africa after 10 long years growing up in the US. It was just time. I hadn't secured a greencard and despite the efforts of Warner Brothers trying to help me, the venture was fruiteless. They regrettably informed me that my situation was such that there was not much they could do. I was forced to quit the band. I went back to college for one more semester to keep the INS at bay and then got on a plane in mid 2003, my destination Johannesburg. Full circle, as they say.

Things weren't easy. They were fuckin hard. My whole family besides my aunt and my grandparents (who were now very old) still lived in the US. I had to become a waitor. Ugh. I slogged along for a year and a half just scraping by and building up contacts until I met a band who, as a stroke of fate, had a fully fledged project studio that they had built for their own personal use. I joined their band and ended up producing our first album in the studio that was not half bad:

DSC_0146 copy.jpg

It's small but it's cosy. It's nothing like the OP's studio or guitargod's, but I have been running the place there happily for the last 7 years and it does the job. I have produced many records over the years, done TV and film work and produced four albums for my own band. The overhead is low and I am the major shareholder now since I bought out my partner so things are in my favour.

Thanks for your time, guys.

Cheers :)
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Well, my entire musical journey started back in 2006 in a little town in the middle of the Mississippi delta- Greenville.

As I've mentioned here before, I was and still am a huge pro wrestling fan (my username is actually my old backyard wrestling character :laughings:).
I started watching back in 2002 when I was 9. I obviously was into the storylines, and the "matches", but the thing I loved the most was the entrance music. I know it sounds cheesy :D, but it's true.
Wrestling is where my exposure to music came from. Motorhead, Metallica, Saliva, The Offspring, and many others that I'm a little embarrassed to talk about :o. lol.
But yeah, wrestling was it for me. Me and my school friends would work out storylines, and study wrestling tapes to learn how to wrestle, and put on matches on the playground.
Eventually around 2004 we moved it to doing a few shows a month in our backyards where some neighborhood people and other friends would come watch. (It's crazy for me to think that we were 10/11 years old writing storylines and learning about the "art" of wrestling now that I'm 18 and 10 year olds just seem like babies when I see em now!:eek:)
The summer of 2006 we were going from the 7th grade to the 8th and everyone I knew cared more about football, and drinking (again...13 year olds drinking :eek:) than wrestling in the backyard, so I just sort of kept to myself playing video games and... watching wrestling :laughings:
One day in May of 2006 I tuned in to VH1's 40 greatest metal songs countdown... not for the metal... or the countdown... but because Chris Jericho was a panelist. But my life took a complete shift when I heard song #19. Alice in Chain- Man in the Box.
Long story a little less longer:
It convinced me to buy a guitar.

Then in 2008 I joined my first band. It was the first band for any of us. We were having tons of fun and recorded some jams on a handheld voicenote recorder (my first experience with mic placement :D). We eventually just loaded some up to myspace just so we members in the band would be able to hear them w/o having to borrow the voicenote recorder.
Idk if some of the other guys told their friends or what, but friends ended up finding out. Then more and more and more. The song listens were up to the thousands within a week or two of uploading. Eventually I logged in to MySpace one day with a message from a respected management company in the southeast asking if we would be interested in a couple of festival/showcase type things in Memphis. One in the New Daisy Theater and one in the (at that point in 2009) soon to be opened Minglewood Hall.
I was completely shocked and overwhelmed. Things were coming together with no ambition or anticipation on our part. We barely had 5 songs written all with terrible record quality.

Then all of the sudden the drummer and singer start having problems due to drummer being less than chivalrous with singers sister whom drummer was dating. Long story less long:I get a phone call one day that drummer's drums are taken completely apart (almost to the point of vandalism), cops are called, people hate each other, etc. and I'm like :wtf:
It came out of nowhere. So as quick as I thought things were happening they stopped and I was left absolutely heartbroken. Within 5 months I met these people, formed a band, started friendships (that are still going strong today), wrote my first songs, and people actually wanted to hear them, and people actually wanted my band to play shows (for a 15 year old that was "it"). Also within the same 5 months, my grandfather died after being bedridden with Alzheimers, diabetes, and an amputated leg for months- and my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. My family was split in half with one half at hospitals with either of my grandparents and the other half taking care of the family businesses.
It was an extremely confusing time. I dare say the worst in my life.
I tried to resurrect that band a few times to no avail.

Then one day I started to understand how much music means to me. It's gone beyond being something I want to do to being something I need to do to be happy. I learned to play drums, started singing, and became the typical homerecordist.
That spiked my infatuation with engineering and the mixing process. I love learning about acoustics and gear. I've converted my room into a "studio".
I've learned though that I'm still at the beginning stages of all of it though really- musician and engineer.
I'm working and saving all that I can this year to build a space within the next year or so. The main driving factor is obviously a space for me to work on my stuff, but to at least be able to offer my services and share my love of all things music with others would be just as fulfilling. Whether it's drums, or my studio itself, or mixing or whatever.
I know it's overkill wanting to be a guitarist, and drummer, and mix, and record other people, and blah blah blah. But I genuinely do love it all and want to become the best I can at all of it.

I also wouldn't change anything I've went through to get here. I'm glad that things went the way they did with the first band or I probably never wouldve went beyond being a guitarist and learned about the love that I have for the entire field.
Everyone has a better resume than I do. I started back in the mid 60's with my dad's Sony tape recorder fooling around. By the early 70's I was playing in bands and recording in the basement with it and the two dynamic mics that came with it. It was the late 70's before I ever saw the inside of a real studio. It was in Ann Arbor Michigan and I did a session with another band in the studio that Black Foot had tracked in. Don't remember the name. Then I got married. I spent a few years out of music all together. I still had the itch to play though and by the 80's I was at it again. The band I was playing with at the time (a metel band) did a demo at a studio in St. Louis called Paridise and made fast friends with the owner (Mark Slocum). I was there 3 to 4 nights a week for years. I had borrowed a 3340 for a short time and got hooked. Ended up buying a Tascam 238 and a Peavey mixer and started tracking my band and soon, other local bands. Bought a house and it had an old unfinished basement (that's where I got the name "The Dungeon") that turned into a studio and started the gear lust thing. The first ADAT I bought was just under $4000 at the time. Got a better console (a StudioMaster that I still have) and two more ADAT's and a BRC. I did a LOT of tracking with that setup. By the late 90's I made the jump to computer. Back then there was NO peer group to help me find a stable recording/editing platform so there was a lot of VERY painfull trial and error. Bought a PC (350 MHz) and started going through soundcards. ADAT Edit, Creamware Pulsar, Yamaha DSP and MixTrax and a couple more I can't remeber the name of. I couldn't get anything to run stable. I even bought a G4 Power Mac and Protools Digi 001. I couldn't get my arms around the Mac (and still not enough simultainious tracks) so I sold that pretty quick. I went back to PC and got a Gina card and it worked like a charm but not enough simultainious tracks. FINALLY got a MOTU 2408 mkII and IT WORKED!! And it tied into the ADATs like a dream. Ran that for a while. Got another console (Tascam M-3500) and replaced the ADATs with a HD24 and a GenX6. Then in 2006 my world got turned upside down. First my mom died and a few months later I lost my day job. I tried to make a full time job out of music but by 2008 the world crashed around me and I damn near lost everything. I scrambled trying to get a new day job which brings me to where I am now. Under employed and an object lesson in humility. I know this reads more like a rant but I'm still addicted recording.
Man reading all of you guys stories is amazing! Its like a timeline. lol Its really great to be apart of such a great enviornment. My story has many years to go but Ill share anyway. lol

Played in cello in the orchastra for about 5-6yrs, but as soon as middle came about I was more interested in the cool image to be honest. Put down the music and didnt take interest for awhile. My dad being a professional bassist and teacher traveling all over the world always tried to teach me new things from cord structure to basslines and just general music theory. I being the young kid wanting to be independent didnt wish to hear it. it wasnt until my 3rd yr of high school where I came across some passion to continue. During that lapse I took piano and bass lessons every now and again.

I was pre exposed to midi and Reason through my dad who had it at school. He introduced me to cakewalk as well and an old roland drum machine. I believe it was when I heard "crank dat by soulja boy" did I want to make that particular type of music. I would crank out several beats a day using a FL studio demo. Didnt know what mixing was or distortion but i enjoyed it.

High school passed and I didnt know any studios in my city or people to learn from. College came and the 1st yr I met an engineer who was the head at the facilities at my school. They offered a 9 week audio program teaching the bascis of pro tools and recording. When I walked into that room and saw the C24 i was so amazed! I quickly jumped first and people began to notice me for it. ....

Jumping fwd to today (2/29/12) I've learned a great deal about the business of this industry. im no longer as interested in doing production for hip-hop/rap artists. I still do it, but ive broadened my passion. I've been able to do a couple pieces in film so ive been looking into that as well as game audio. I only have 5+yrs exp. now, but i look fwd to obtaining so much more! I love mixing more than anything. Idk what it is about it. To take raw audio and scult it into a well defined sound for people to enjoy.

Hopefully I can talk to you guys on advice! Today I manage two of my own artists, created my own brand, and am Manager/1st Engineer to the facilities at my university. maybe not the most extravagent of stories as you all but I still felt it needed to be shared. lol
I'm curious to hear about what drives you.
What do you say?
Is this thread only for engineers or is it open to the wide gamut of bods that make up HR, some of whom "engineer" their own stuff as part of the jack of all trades that many hobbyists end up having to be ?
. . I HAD a story. . .Typed the whole thing. . . then it never posted. . .

But that's okay. I guess my jorney isn't over yet.